Medals and the Man

Monthly Feature

Medals and the Man

may 2024

Capt John Fox-Russell VC

The Victoria Cross in the highest gallantry award available under the British Honours system - It is awarded regardless of rank and ranks above any other Honour or Award. It was instituted in 1857 and to date some 1,358 have been awarded; the majority during the First World War.

No member of the Herefordshire Regiment has been awarded a VC but Captain John Fox-Russell was the Regimental Medical Officer of the 1/6th Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers, part of 159 Brigade but attached to The Herefordshire Regiment when he won his Victoria Cross.

In the 3rd Battle of Gaza, November 1917 he was attached to the Herefordshire Regiment and it was during the action at Khuweilfeh he was awarded the VC for:

most conspicuous bravery displayed in action until he was killed. Captain Russell repeatedly went out to attend the wounded under murderous fire from snipers and machine-guns, and in many cases, when no other means were at hand, carried them in himself, although almost exhausted. He showed the greatest possible degree of valour.

An extract from the Battalion War Diary for the period records: About 1am the Battalion formed up in front of its bivouacs prior to moving forward the brigade place of assembly prior to attack. The Battalion, which should have been accompanied by a battalion of the Imperial Camel Corps, arrived at about 3.40am and took up its ordered formation of companies in platoon waves at 25 yard distances; each company having one platoon in the front line. Order of companies from right to left:

\ D – Capt Carver

\ C – Capt Evelyn

\ B – Capt Birnie

\ A – Capt Russell.

On the left of the brigade lines was 1/7 RWF, left of the Herefords were the 1/6 RWF by which the Battalion was to march. The Battalion had been ordered to take up a frontage of 500 yards, but owing to inaccuracies in the map and the necessity of getting astride the ridge leading up to the table topped mountain, it was found necessary to increase the frontage to well over 1,000 yards and this in spite of the fact that the Battalion of the Imperial Camel Corps had been diverted to operate on the right flank of the Battalion.

At 3.48am some of our guns fired which caused some slight misapprehension as it was thought that our artillery barraged was timed for 4am had commenced. At 4am the Battalion moved steadily forward, covered by a heavy artillery and machine gun barrage, but for some reason touch had not been made with the 1/6 RWF on our left. Owing to the configuration of the ground, the tendency of the Battalion was rather to converge on its left and it was not clear that D Coy actually moved over Table Top Hill, an impossible hill to hold. Some of the Herefords became mixed up with the Imperial Camel Corps who afterwards came up on the left flank. The Battalion pushed on and reached the reverse slope of Tel El Khuweilfeh, shooting and bayonetting many Turks on the way.

Here abouts 9 Turkish guns were captured and the transport of a machine gun company decimated. Unfortunately our artillery barrage opened up again and compelled the Herefords to abandon their captured guns. At this time there was driving mist making it impossible to distinguish friend from foe at more than a few hundred yards.

From the above cause and the very accurate shooting of the enemy guns and snipers the Battalion suffered rather heavy casualties, especially amongst the officers, 6 of whom were killed while gallantly leading the men and 5 were wounded. The Battalion maintained the position it had won until relieved by 1/5 RWF the next day.

During the course of the battle the Battalion took 5 officers and 39 soldier prisoner and 10 soldiers the next day.

On relief the Battalion moved to bivouac area in reach of brigade battle HQ.

Capt Fox-Russell’s wife, Alma whom he married in September 1916 was presented with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 2 March 1918.

He had previously been awarded the Military Cross for his actions during the 1st Battle of Gaza and also mentioned in despatches. He was also awarded the Territorial Force War Medal and his medals are in The Royal Army Medical Corps collection.

John Fox-Russell had been born in Holyhead North Wales and attended Magdalen College, Cambridge and St Bees school in Cumbria before completing his medical training at The Middlesex Hospital. He was a member of the Officer training Corps and was mobilised in August 1914.

Two other old boys from St Bees also won Victoria Crosses - Captain Leefe Robinson, RFC and Captain Richard Wain, Tank Corps.

He is buried in the Beersheba Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery.

On the centenary of his award a paving stone was unveiled in Holyhead.

April 2024

142 Sgt C Jones

Sgt Jones full career is not known - what is known is that he was an employee of the Post Office and served with the Herefordshire Rifle Volunteers and the Herefordshire Regiment and with the Royal Engineers during the Boer War and First World War. The Royal Engineers were responsible for post and communications and it is probable that he was employed in that role.

He was clearly an outstanding individual being awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for military service and the Imperial Service Medal for his service with the Post Office.

Hereford Post Office Territorials - Sgt Jones - seated centre wearing Queens and Kings South Africa Medals and the Volunteer Force Long Service Medal
Hereford Post Office Territorials - Sgt Jones - seated centre wearing Queens and Kings South Africa Medals and the Volunteer Force Long Service Medal

February 2024

Sjt Maj R Harman

Sjt Maj Harman's group of medals in unique to the Regiment; his is the only award of the Serbian Gold Medal for Bravery. This was 'gazetted' in February 1917, unfortunately there is no citation other than 'For Services in The Middle East'. Probably for action in 1916 and possibly from the Battle of Romani in August.

He enlisted at Hereford in late 1914 and was given regimental number 1822.

He served with the Battalion at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli and then in the Middle East and the Western Front; he was renumbered 235451 and was discharged 29 January 1919.

He re-enlisted in July 1921 as 4103351 aged 24 and 5 months and attended every annual camp from 1921 until 1939. He took part in the 1935 Jubilee Parade and the Coronation parade in London and was accordingly awarded the 1935 Jubilee Medal. He was transferred to the Gloucestershire Provisional Battalion as unfit for overseas service and discharged as unfit for service in July 1941.

His Second World War service entitled him to the War Medal and it is for speculation whether he joined the Home Guard - if he did and served for 3 years he would have also been entitles to the Defence medal.

He died in 1966.

January 2024

Barnham and Baynham

This month we are featuring 2 medal groups which caused some confusion to the Regimental management team!

The 2 medal groups, which are almost the same, were donated to the Museum on successive days, but one group the Curator and the other to his assistant the other not knowing that there were 2 separate donations. Several days later they met and were discussing recent donations and both mentioned the donation they had received but each believed that the other was quoting the wrong surname and a ‘healthy’ discussion took place – eventually the fact that there were 2 similarly named and similar groups was established!

Both groups consist of the 39/45 Star, France & Germany Star, Defence, War and Efficiency Medal (Territorial) Medals; Baynham’s medal include a bar to the Efficiency Medal.

4105393 Pte Cyril Baynham lived at The Callow and enlisted into the Herefordshire Regiment at Hereford 1 May 1939 aged 18 years and one month. He transferred to the Royal Welsh Fusiliers where he was awarded the Efficiency Medal; He later served in the MT Section of the Herefordshire Light Infantry where he was awarded the Bar to the medal.

4105136 Pte Harry Barnham lived in Westfields, Hereford and enlisted into the Herefordshire Regiment at Hereford 20 March 1939 aged 29 and 3 months. He was promoted corporal and served in the Carrier Platoon.

December 2023

Maj ALB Green DSO TD

Major Arthur Llewellyn Baldwin Green was a medical doctor practicing in Ross On Wye but he served in the Herefordshire Regiment during The First World War as an infantry officer and was a Company Commander. He had previously served with The Herefordshire Rifle Volunteers.

He sailed with the Battalion for Suvla Bay on board the Euripides.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for services in the Middle East in 1917 and was also mentioned in Despatches in July 1917 and January 1918. He was awarded the Territorial Decoration (TD) in May 1919. He was also awarded the 1953 Coronation Medal for services to The British Legion.

He was severely wounded at Suvla Bay and one resident of Ross On Wye, who was a patient of 'Dr' Green said - I was 4 years old and he was our family doctor, in practice at Ross until he retired. A lovely man, and although one knew he had been badly wounded, I doubt whether anyone had ever heard of his DSO. Very modest and unassuming, and much loved by his patients.

His medals are held in the Regimental Museum as is a watch he was wearing which was hit by a Turkish bullet and possibly saved his life.

November 2023

4036782 Private TA Robins

Pte Tom Robins was one of 4 brothers that served with the Herefordshire Regiment in World War 2.

His 3 brothers were all pre-war members of the Herefordshire Regiment – William (Bill), Edward and Ronald (Reg). The fourth brother Tom joined the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry, was transferred to the Durham Light Infantry and served for 14 months in Iceland in 1940/41. He was ‘claimed’ by his eldest brother William for The Herefordshire Regiment. The ‘claiming’ system allowed fathers to claim their sons and brothers to claim their siblings to serve with them in the same regiment.

Tom was awarded the standard 4 medals for service in North West Europe – these are common as they were issued to all troops in NWE – but only the man wearing the medals knew what he had done to earn the medals. Tom was an infantryman in a frontline battalion – his medals would surely tell of a harrowing and demanding experience!

Bill and Reg were both wounded but Tom and Edward were unscathed.

After the war the 4 brothers supported the Regimental Association and Reg and Tom revisited the battlefields.

Reg was awarded the French Legion d’honour by the French Government as a veteran of the Normandy campaign on the 70th anniversary of D Day.